Have you ever been behind on a project, and didn’t even realize it? I’ve been there too. Maybe it slipped our minds, or maybe we handed it off to somebody to take care of while we focused on something else. Splitting the workload and delegating is an often-successful practice, but we have to remember to follow up on our peers, whether delegating or not. Following up and establishing clear lines of communication can expedite a project’s completion by keeping everyone on track. But everyone might not be on board with the idea of check-ins. Here’s three examples of people who we might struggle to follow-up with, and some ways we can help them—and ourselves—keep our eyes on the prize.
Oliver the Overpromiser
Oliver the Overpromiser doesn't deliver on his promises. When the due date comes, he asks for extensions. Along the way, when we approach him to ask for an update, and he says he’s working on it, but we don’t see his work. Maybe he’s not working on it, maybe he’s distracted by something else, or maybe he really is trying but just can’t get it done. This can make staying on track tough for the rest of us, but Oliver isn't an obstacle - he's a human who could use our support. If Oliver is slacking or procrastinating, we might need to offer him smaller tasks with shorter deliverable dates to help him stay focused. Alternatively, if Oliver is being pulled over to higher-priority work elsewhere in the organization, we can build some margin into our project’s timeline, take some of that pressure off. If we know his relationship with time is just a little looser than others, but he consistently delivers, then we may want to give him due dates that are a few days ahead of what we really need. If we add flexibility to the deadlines at the outset, we’ll either finish early or right on time. Stay on top of Oliver’s progress, and everything will be okay!
Mary Don’t Micromanage Me
Mary Don’t Micromanage Me has said time and time again that she really hates oversight. She prefers to work alone, with no one watching her, and to do her work herself. She delivers great results this way, but honestly, it makes following up difficult, as she views any check-ins as micromanaging, no matter how sparse they may be. For Mary, one helpful strategy is to try to clarify expectations right at the beginning. Before we let her go to work, make sure she knows that we want to check in on her progress, and indicate exactly when she should expect check-ins as a part of her workflow. That way, they are more like a part of the process, rather than us interrupting her. Help Mary understand that we aren’t checking in because we don’t think she’s doing a good job, but that our goal is to stay up to date on the project’s progress as a whole.
Amy Afraid to Ask
Amy Afraid to Ask is timid and scared of approaching us with questions. Like Mary, she works alone, but in her case, this is because she is afraid of seeming annoying or unqualified. This can make her work hard to track and lead to otherwise avoidable mistakes. For Amy, it’s simple: communicate. Talk through the results, and establish regular check-ins. Be sure to both praise her for what she does right, and provide constructive feedback so she sees that asking questions is an essential part of the process. Clarifying expectations and asking about things we don’t fully understand leads to open and honest communications. It doesn’t make us foolish; it makes us dependable and demonstrates that we understand the importance of what we are doing. And if we make a mistake, that’s okay too! It’s completely natural.
These are just three ways to make sure we follow up on time to reach our goals. There are plenty of other ways to help make sure that we follow up during our projects, so that they stay on track. These tips can help us achieve our goals, so why not give it a shot?
Having some other issues in project management? Whether it’s ineffective communication, role/responsibility mismatch, or risk management, we’d love to hear what’s going on! Reach out and we’d be happy to schedule some time to listen!